Girls - congratulations on being accepted to Notre Dame! Growing up, I didn’t have any sisters - not until I came here, at least. Now, I think on my time here and feel like I graduated with fifty-nine sisters, lucky me. Thank you, Mrs. Butler and the admissions team, for extending the invitation; I jump at any chance I can find to talk about how much I love this school and all the opportunities this community offered me. I graduated from NDA in 2013 and matriculated to Providence College, where I graduated in 2017 with honors and a degree in music education with concentrations in choral conducting and vocal performance. After I graduated from PC, I was hired as a music teacher and the choral director at Franklin High School and I teach courses in applied piano and guitar, the history of American Popular Music, and the two choruses at the school - the general concert chorus and the auditioned treble chorus. Professionally, my interests lie in the advocation for choral music in schools and the community, and in supporting women musicians: composers, conductors, and performers.
It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that one of the most important decisions of my life was made ten years ago this year. It sounds so cliche to say it like that, but I really do and quite deeply believe that my decision to attend Notre Dame was among one of the most influential of my life. Because of my time at NDA, I learned how to think, how to question, how to communicate. I learned to look outside of myself and address the needs of the people around me. And I also learned that using my gifts and my talents was going to be the way I could be the most service to others. I learned that if I really want something, I have to make the opportunity present itself, and that resiliency and adaptability are keys to a good life. I was empowered here. I was nurtured here. I was known. I was loved.
I could go on and on about all the research-related reasons why an all-girls school is one of the absolute best gifts you could give your daughters. But that’s not really why you came tonight. I think, if you’re here, you already know that all-girls schools breed leaders; that attending and supporting all-girls schools, clubs, and organizations could be part of the way we close the wage and STEM or STEAM gaps we see in our nation. You already know that at an all-girls school, girls occupy every single role in the school community, which encourages self-exploration and growth in any and all areas. I’m positive you know that an all-girls schools will help a more reserved student find her voice, and you also know that all-girls schools also attract the bold, independent students, who refuse to be pinned down by whatever expectations are placed on young women in our society today. You know all these things already - you came here tonight to hear how Notre Dame was the catalyst for a young woman to step out into the world - confident to make decisions and take control of her own life.
When I was a student here, I came in with a lot of ideas in my head, but I was just finding where I fit. I was a little reserved, but that lasted about as long as the first few weeks. By the time I left, I was voted the class speaker, given the Foundress Award, and was the vice president of my graduating class. I participated in every music ensemble (even the flute ensemble, though I didn’t play the flute - I accompanied them on piano), I was in every musical and play produced during my four years, I was in the book club, the dance ensemble, and would weekly give Mrs. Butler a pink notebook with my poems scribbled across the pages since there was no poetry club back then. Tech weeks for the shows and concert days were some of my favorites - there was so much camaraderie and, being a total music and theatre geek, I lived for the days when all I did was perform and prepare.
One of my favorite NDA memories involves a trip to Ireland during my senior year. The music department took a tour overseas during April break and I, despite what felt like insurmountable financial difficulties, was able to go. I worked hard enough during my senior year to pay for just over half of my trip and donors in our community funded the rest. The day before I left for the trip, while I was in school, teachers would find me in the hallway and give me cards. Inside the cards were words of encouragement and congratulations - I had worked hard for my trip, that they were proud of me, and to enjoy my time there. A few teachers gave me small donations for food; one gave me a little specifically to buy an Irish sweater; and one very special drama teacher copied pages from her favorite collection of Yeats so I could read his words sitting in the grass with sheep dotting the green hillsides. The immeasurable kindness of the teachers who work here is beyond anything I could say. They work with their whole hearts and want the very best for all their students. I became a teacher because of them and their example. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, I learned what it means to be a woman of goodwill, strength, and wit.
When I went on to college, I began to notice the differences in my education from that of my peers. For one, I was applauded for taking risks. Only, to me, what I was doing - asking pointed questions, engaging in conversations, auditioning for every solo and ensemble possible - didn’t feel like taking risks; it just felt like what I was supposed to do. After all - my insights and voice were unique and mattered. But then I noticed how many people just seemed to be waiting. Waiting to be called on, waiting to enter conversation, waiting for an invitation, just… waiting. I had become unafraid of speaking out or making a mistake - I knew I could learn more from being wrong than being right, and the only way I could grow was to try. I knew there was not always one answer to a problem, but I had confidence in my ability to find a way. I had come to see every obstacle I encountered as a challenge - a chance to prove myself, not to everyone else, but to me. My mantra had become “I am strong. I am capable.” It carried me through difficult years and moments, and certainly through my college career.
Because of my time at NDA, I became determined to create connection among others and to support them to the very best of my abilities; I knew from experience what incredible good comes from a caring and empathetic community. The gift of the Notre Dame education changed the course of my life - I became empowered; prepared to make any decision with confidence, thoughtfulness, and, I hope with grace. I am proud of my work and of my profession, and I frequently think on my time at Notre Dame with the sincerest heart. I am so grateful that I was afforded such an opportunity. I hope you give your daughter the same. She’s strong and she’s capable, whether she believes it yet or not. There’s something about this place that brings that out in every girl who walks these halls. The world desperately needs the type of people that Notre Dame helps to create - young women holding tightly to the knowledge that they can make a difference, with hearts as wide as the world.